How to be positive and in a happy mood always…

Being happy is not about temporary thrills, pleasurable pursuits, exciting events, winning prizes or living a luxurious lifestyle. It is not even about making a lot of money, achieving fame, being the best looking or the smartest. Because the richest, the famous, the best looking or the smartest can still be the most depressed  people on earth. Being happy in reality is actually a matter of lifestyle. It can be found amongst the most ordinary lives as anyone on this earth can be happy if they want to be. It is not a matter of position or possession but simply a state of mind manifested from the kind of lifestyle we lead.

So what lifestyle changes should we make to be in a good mood everyday of our lives? What can one do so that a general state of positivity and good feeling is our way of life? Of course, this doesn’t mean we will not have our bad days and failures or go through situations that can make us feel temporarily defeated. But how do we bounce back out of it quickly and live in a state of positivity and confidence that things will surely turn in our favour? How to be in a happy mood on a very ordinary day and love each moment of our routine life? We can aim for our goals only when we have a strong positive mindset, don’t we? So how do we do that? For that we have to adopt a lifestyle that embraces activities and programmes that promote happiness.

  1. Exercise is known to be a great mood booster as it releases endorphins that helps alleviate our mood. So, if you make it a habit to exercise everyday then it can help you in beating stress and annihilate the heaviness that might clutter your way of thinking. It will aid in keeping you in a lighter and happier mood while going about your daily business every day. Regular exercise will also keep you fit and give you a sense of achievement where your physique is concerned. If you dislike the gym you can opt to do something more suited to your interests and personality such as dancing, yoga or any other fun sport like tennis, badminton, basketball etc. The friends and acquaintances you meet at the gym or club will also give you a sense of belonging and companionship as your goals and passions will be more in line with them.
  1. Meditation is a must if you want to live a happy life. Meditation calms any kind of turmoil that you might be feeling inside or any problem that might tend to make you restless. It soothes the mind and helps eliminate negative thoughts that might haunt you and bring you down on a daily basis. You will feel a sense of calm and see your problems more logically – in other words with a sense of wisdom. The practice of meditation helps shed more light on the problems you are facing and analyse them better. You tend to gain clarity over them and achieve peace of mind. It develops your intuition better and helps you find more rational solutions to them. You will find yourself feeling less and less bitter as it increases your emotional stability. A feeling of relaxation tends to pervade in your everyday life. It helps increase your creativity too. It reduces the restlessness inside by stabilizing your thoughts and helps you gain more focus in your work. It expands your consciousness and you tend to view things from a greater perspective than before. All in all it gives you a greater sense of wisdom.
  1. Drink water. Water keeps you hydrated and less cranky.
  1. Start keeping a journal. Write down your problems. It helps empty out that clutter clogging your mind and makes you feel lighter as if you have removed a major weight from your shoulders. It releases pent-up feelings and emotions. Once you write down your feelings, it gives you a better perspective of the agitation you are feeling inside by gaining more clarity. It helps you sort out your feelings better by disentangling them, processing them and relating them more logically with outer events. You see your problems more maturely as an outsider and thereby easily find solutions for them. You find your worries less overwhelming and easy to let go. It helps balance your mind and increase emotional stability. It soothes your troubled mind by allowing you to counsel yourself. It helps in healing yourself and thereby bringing in harmony to your life.
  1. Try to live in the present. The more you live in the present the better you will feel everyday of your life. Needless worrying about the future and dwelling in the past is a great mood killer. Live in the philosophy that the past has been done and gone. The lesson learnt will pay richly all your life. And even if you feel there was no lesson then there is no point dwelling in it. Expect that whatever will happen in future will only be for your best. Believe in that higher source that there is a greater, grander design for you and only the best will follow.
  2. Strive to embrace a broader view of things. Try to forgive others and let go. The more we hold on to a grudge, more does it make us a bitter and an angrier person. It will make us even more low and dismal. It will make us unhappier than the other person we are angry about. The more we let go, the lighter will be our state of mind and overall mood. Understand that when a person is negative with you then most likely that is how the person’s basic nature is. He or she, in general, carries that attitude in life and behaves the same with all others too. Just forgive and forget. This doesn’t mean you have to be very friendly with that person and blindly believe in them again. But be wiser by releasing the anger, keeping a distance from that person and being more cautious next time.
  3. If somebody doesn’t live up to your expectations, then try to see things from their point of view from time to time. Maybe that person was having a bad day and hence didn’t notice you or pay you any attention. Maybe your friend had a major disagreement with his colleague at office and so was somewhat snappy with you.
  4. Be a kinder and a helpful person. This really helps in building up more happy hormones in you. When we help others, notice that we feel much better and lighter after that act of kindness. If we resolve to do something kind every day, then our life in general will be a very positive one.
  5. Develop a hobby especially a creative one like painting, sketching, pottery and craftwork. It will keep you totally immersed in the creative process and after an hour or so you will feel so much better and happier.
  6. Strive to be as emotionally independent and self reliant as possible. Because there maybe times you won’t find anyone around when you are low or depressed. People are quite caught up with their own lives and rarely you will find people generous to lend time to you out of their own challenging busy lives. So be your best friend always. Don’t have expectations from others even if he or she is your best friend or your sibling. People keep changing as per the situations in life. Everyone is on their own growth path and might make mistakes in their journey of life. It’s part of being human. So don’t have expectations however much you have done for them. Expectations only ruin relationships. Give and forget. As the Bible says, when you do charity, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. This age-old philosophy will always keep you mentally strong, emotionally independent and happy. It will help you achieve emotional balance as your feelings or mood will not depend on any external factors. You will be the sole owner of your own happiness. So be passionate about your own stuff that is your work, your hobbies, your fitness activities and other practices such as yoga, meditation etc. This will keep your mind always involved, busy and happy. It will steer you away from those negative monkey thoughts that are the root cause of unhappiness and a bad mood.
  7. Live in confidence always that whatever challenges or goals you have, there is always a higher source, or the universe if you’d like to call it, to help you and guide you to achieve your dreams. Wishes are prayers that are bound to come true if we have enough faith in ourselves and that higher source.
  8. Never feel superior or inferior to anyone. Each of us is born with special talents and gifts. Be confident in your talents but appreciate what you don’t have in others. This will give you a balanced feeling about how you perceive yourself and others.

Author:        Pratibha R DH




How to get out of a bad mood?

There might be various factors causing a bad mood which we ourselves might not be aware of. One catalytic factor might be because we are feeling stressed or bored with our lives. Feelings of unworthiness or low confidence can also lead to a lot of discontent and angst within ourselves. External factors like someone’s irksome behaviour might be one or we could be a victim of a near one’s mercurial temperament. As a matter of fact staying around anyone’s constant unpredictable mood swings, be it a colleague or a friend, is no less a downer. So what do we do to get out of this bad mood?

First, I’d suggest a change of scene. Go outdoors for a while and try to absorb the sound and sights of nature. The soft lull of the leaves in the trees, the vibrant colours of the flowers, the chirping of the birds, the deep blue sky – try to get the feel and sense of every element in your surroundings. Or, if you live in the city go out for a walk and try to absorb the sights and sounds around you. Feel the evening breeze and observe the lively shops, the passersby engaged in their own story of life, children playing, young people frolicking and so on. It will change your focus from whatever has been bothering you at that moment. You might also meet someone on the way in course of your solitary walk, who might want to chat you up and thereby get you involved in his or her conversation. This will help to disengage you from that heavy chatter playing in your mind and thereby break the chain of murky thoughts that seem to hold you a prisoner of your bad mood.

Another way to get out of a bad mood is by writing down your thoughts on paper. Without editing, just write spontaneously about everything that comes to your mind at that very moment. Mention every thought as it comes. The very act of unloading your thoughts on paper will open and give way to the healing process for you. You will feel a lot lighter and find a sense of clarity once you log down your thoughts for the day. Writing really helps and I strongly recommend you try it out. It will reduce the intensity of whatever you are feeling at the moment. You will feel calmer and at the same time you will grow stronger internally. Writing allows you to process those murky feelings till your agitation cools down and you feel at ease and somewhat serene of the whole situation. It will also help you see what are the situations that keep causing you repeated agony and in course of time find a solution to beat that problem. Another aspect to keep in mind is that when we see a problem as a third person or an outsider it helps us gain some sense of meaning or resolution to the conflict raging inside our heart. The reason is that when we are inside our own drama it makes our mind clogged and stops us from assessing our problems logically. But when we are less emotional or analyzing a situation as an outsider we gain more logic over it. Writing also releases the resentments you feel against people. So instead of bottling them up and stewing over them, writing becomes a kind of cathartic release for you. Since it slows down that anger or that intensity of feelings inside us, it also gives us some time to focus on another’s point of view and thereby have a better assessment of the situation.

Exercise is another way to change your mood. Twenty to thirty minutes of exercise can be a great mood booster. Besides cardio and the regular workouts you can opt for something you enjoy for e.g., a dance program like zumba, hip hop, aerobics, belly etc or a fun sport like badminton, cycling, tennis etc. Something that you really enjoy doing instead of it being a punishing routine to be followed every day. You can also join a gym or a club nearby. A regular work out or a dance program will help to keep your mood stable on a daily basis. The people you meet there every day with whom you can enjoy a chat or a laugh in course of your fitness routine also adds up to your mood. Regular exercise will also help weight loss and give you a sense of achievement to boost your confidence levels. The blood circulation and rush of adrenalin in course of your fitness program will help alleviate that bad mood into a lighter and better mood. Exercise helps the brain to release chemicals such as endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine which act to relieve the tension and uplift your mood. Yoga is another practice that helps the flow of blood all over the body and removes the blocks causing tension in our body and mind. It helps stabilise our inner world.

Meditation is another great way to beat out a bad mood. Instantly at that very moment, find some place to sit quietly and focus on your breathing. As you relax each part of your body you will find your thoughts slow down. Let your thoughts come and go and don’t try to get attached to any particular thought but be aware of every breath that you take. Try this for ten minutes. You will feel much calmer and lighter after you meditate. If you practise this everyday you will definitely feel like a changed person for life. It’s not that you won’t have bad days or you won’t lose control but you will change into a relatively stronger and calmer person. You can also try out guided meditation where a voice makes you relaxed as it takes you through different images in your mind. Whichever method you use, this is a great technique to uplift you and relieve you from those sore feelings gnawing at your heart.

Music is another way to help alleviate your bad mood. Listen to songs which uplift your heart and has had the ability to put you in a good mood in the past. I am sure you will feel much better again after you get immersed and hum to the tune of your favourite musical melodies.

Daily chores like washing dishes or ironing also keeps you busy and distracts you from following that heavy thought pattern hovering in your mind.

Get involved in a hobby that you are passionate about. Painting, drawing, colouring and craftwork are great stress busters which shifts your focus and gets you involved in its creative process. It will also give you a sense of achievement once you see your creations fill your home and boost your confidence hugely.

If you have a good circle of friends and if they are free then dress up and go out with them. Or watch a good movie. Of course this is something external and hence only a temporary mood enhancer as your friends might not always be around. So don’t depend on this too much. Depend on something which is yours to own, so that you can make it part of your routine or a daily habit.  A daily ritual of your own will keep your mind trained to always stay in a good mood and thereby stabilise your mood swings.

Don’t be on social media too much if you are in a bad mood. If you are feeling very lonely at a particular  moment, then seeing pictures of your friends holidaying or partying might make you even more morose. Social media also comes with expectations. And if you put up a status that not many people have been inclined to comment or ‘like’, then that might bother you even more. It might also manifest a feeling of being ignored or create a lower self-esteem. Negative statuses of your friends may drive you further into a depressive mood, so it’s best to avoid social media during those instances of your life.

Do random acts of kindness like visiting that aunty who lives all alone or calling that friend who is depressed and encourage her. All these small acts will change your focus from your own situation and help you feel better.

As much as possible, go out and smile. Act as if you are cheerful and enthusiastic about your life and greet people around you in that cheerful fervour. And slowly your mind and heart also will catch up with it till you really feel much happier and better. In other words – “fake it till you make it.”

If you are around someone who is always affected, try not to get drawn into that person’s bad mood. Distance yourself and build a wall internally against that person’s mood. Realise that change of mood is a part of that person’s personality and you need not be a victim of it. You have a choice to decide how your mood will be and not anyone else. Be calm and composed no matter what. Decide for yourself how you will be and what will you be.

Getting involved passionately in your work will keep you focused in the present and keep your thoughts in the right track. Try to live in the present moment as much as possible and not dwell in the past. The past is done. It had its purpose and is water under the bridge now. No point mulling over it. Instead try to see it more philosophically and understand that there was a lesson which we needed to learn for our self-growth.

Don’t fret yourself on the future whether it is a project or some plan or any event. Believe in the positive and expect that it will occur in its own sweet time. Live in the present moment and appreciate what you have in life. The bad situations are only a few splashes in our large canvas of life and believe that those too will pass. This is called living mindfully. Be grateful for all that you have in life. Make a gratitude list and you will find there is so much to be grateful for. Don’t take everything for granted. Appreciate all the blessings in your life and try to enjoy each moment. If you still feel down, look at people who have far less than you. This will surely change your perspective and make you feel so much better. Training yourself everyday to change your mood by following the above steps will surely change you into a naturally positive and happy person.

Author:        Pratibha R DH

How to achieve your goals?

Today I am going to discuss a few tips on how to achieve your goals based on my experience and steps I take to achieve my goals. This is my process on how to go about being goal oriented and I hope this helps you too.

First of all, goals depend on what we desire most. It might be to lose weight or to get through an exam or pass an interview or something vocational like becoming a blogger. You need to be specific about what you want to achieve in life and then work your way towards it.

Make it realistic and start with small steps i.e. baby steps. For e.g., you might like to be more of a stronger and happier person. So what is it that you need to do? You might research on the internet and it will give you suggestions to follow a healthier lifestyle, such as exercise everyday and follow a healthy diet. It might also ask you to follow holistic practises like meditation and yoga.

So first thing you need to do is to write down your goal. Then research by reading articles and talking to experts on how to go about achieving it. So once you are specific and have some knowhow, make an action plan on how to go about it. This will make your goal feel more real and practical, in other words achievable. It will actually bring some sense of structure to your goals. Make a routine and write it down in your planner. Set the time in your planner for that particular task every day.

Say, you want to lose weight. Don’t be vague and think I want to look like Beyonce. Be more specific, considering your current situation. For e.g. you are twenty pounds overweight. So write down your goal as, ‘I want to lose 20 pounds’. Give it a time duration. Be realistic. Don’t try to achieve that goal in one week. It might lead to you falling seriously ill thereby damaging your health. So write down your goal in a sheet of paper with a time frame, say I want to lose ten pounds in two months.

Then, next comes the process. What is the action plan to achieve that goal considering the lifestyle you follow? Like for e.g. you might be a busy mother of school going children. So you need to fix a time after the children goes to school. This will help you follow that time schedule regularly without allowing any break to it, except for unavoidable circumstances of course. Or you might be a student who is busy in school the entire day. So in that case the best option would be to finish off your exercise schedule in the morning. Or you might be an office goer who has some free time in the evening. So the best course of action is to fix a time in the evening. Whatever your time is, keep it fixed and develop a routine round it. Follow it diligently till it becomes a habit. Follow a diet schedule. Decide first what would be the diet you are going to follow. What foods should be included in your breakfast that will aid in your weight loss? It might be that the dietician or the fitness blogger or website you follow might ask you to load yourself with fibrous food such as oatmeal or fruits in the morning. So write that down in your breakfast diet column of your diet planner. Keep more options so that there is variety and you are not bored. Decide what would you have for your lunch – the time when you feel tired and still need to keep going through the entire day. Maybe you can have some carbohydrates or protein food. So write that down. Then next comes your dinner. It should be a lighter affair this time, so write down the light foods as advised by your fitness experts. You can also write down the snacks to be followed too. In this manner you can have a proper diet chart to follow and this will aid you in your weight loss. When your diet becomes a pre-planned routine, it helps you to stop cheating and thereby giving in to your senses whenever the impulse catches you. Make a column in your diet chart that contains the checklist which makes you check off the things you were able to complete successfully. That gives you a sense of achievement. Also include a column for the junks foods or sugary stuff you had that day so that you are aware of what you are eating that might have led to a slowdown in your weight loss. Once you have that record you are more aware of your diet intake and next time you will be more conscious of your food habits. You can also have an exercise chart which combines the different exercises you might do on a particular day of the week. This might be a combination of cardio or ab exercises or weights. So you can have a structured exercise plan to follow each week that especially works on the problem areas of your physique. Keep the timetable or planner pasted on an area where you can see it every day. This will help you follow it with more dedication and not be lackadaisical about your goal. Download exercise planners from the internet or you can design some of your own and print them out. You can have a wallpaper of someone who’s physique you admire on your desktop or laptop if you use that. This will can enhance your desire and make your goal even stronger. Or you can have a screen saver of that person in different dresses or have a wall poster where you can always see them. This will motivate you to follow your exercise and diet plans till it becomes a habit. Here I have pasted a self designed exercise planner to keep me motivated in my exercise and diet schedule.


Let me give you another example. For instance your goal is to become a blogger. In that case, first you need to create a free blog offered by different websites such as wordpress and blogspot or take professional help to create one. I will not talk in detail about this, as lots of information regarding it is already available on the internet. So what would be the next step for you to do? Fix a certain time everyday for your research and writing. You can fix one hour for your research and another hour for writing. So by the end of a month you can have as much as 8 to 9 articles easily. Same goes for writing a book which might also be your first novel. If you are a busy holding a job, then you can fix an hour everyday early morning for your book. Start working on your research for a month. Then for another 10 days start making a plot for your novel. After that aim to write 500 or 1000 words everyday depending on your speed. Hence by the end of the month you can have as much as 15, 000 to 30,000 words already completed for your novel. If you go by the lower count then by the end of five months you would have completed 75,000 words at least. If you consider another three-four months for editing and polishing your novel, then within less than a year you have a novel ready to be submitted to the agent or a publisher.


Hence with proper planning we can set to achieve whatever we want or dream of. We need to start with baby steps by writing down our goal first. Then next we need to make an action plan. Keep your timetable or plan visible by making printouts and pasting it where you can see it every day – maybe in your planner or on the wall facing your desk. Make it a habit to follow the routine everyday with dedication. Of course don’t make it so unrealistic that you are burnt out in the first few days itself. After exerting your will power for the first week or so, it almost becomes a habit and gets much easier. Once you have checked off those small goals your sense of achievement will propel you to aim for more goals. Your past success track record will give you better focus and thereby make you more determined and goal oriented. This paves for more success in your life and in time all your future endeavours.

Author:        Pratibha R DH

Eat, Pray, Love

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved this one! After a long time I found a book which I couldn’t wait to get back to, in my free time. I wanted to live through and feel every place that Gilbert lived and visited in this book. She has that amazing talent to make you live and feel her experiences as though it really happened to you.

Especially her life in the ashram in India honestly enthralled me. I could quite feel the spiritual cleansing and her sense of peace she attained in the course of her spiritual journey. I would love to have a taste of a similar experience someday and feel that kind of spiritual empowerment.

And her Bali experience – that was awesome too. I apologise if I am repeating myself, but again I really wish I could do something like that someday. The artist house where she meditated every morning and relished the splendour of the flower filled garden was so beautifully described that it makes me want to embed a similar setup in my home too – so that definitely goes to my to-have list in future.

Her daily routine of cycling through the greens of Bali was another aspect that really appealed to me – that would be just so physically and mentally rejuvenating, I feel. All in all, I loved the life she led in Bali – the meditation, the learning, the cycling (being a nature lover myself) and all the remaining fun stuff.

I loved the real life examples of the law of attraction affirmations she practised in the book which made many of her wishes come true ( like for e.g. her divorce settlement) – and finding her future husband after all her heart ache and emotional upheaval she went through, was almost like having a fairy tale ending.

So there was a magical element to this real life story too – something which brings us all a sense of hope in the reality of life. Makes one believe that life can be truly a fairytale if we look within ourselves and change the way we view things – the universe truly conspires to give us what we wish for – if we wish it in the right way of course!

Also there were a lot of paranormal elements to this story that really moved me. It is a proof that there is more to this life on earth than what science and physics can explain. Some examples I can quickly add here are the guidance that Gilbert received in her dreams from her Guru that was almost prophetic, the way the Gurugita hymn caused intense physical reactions in her as well as an inner turmoil, her friend’s dream about her which was almost like a spiritual metaphor of her Gurugita experience and how magically the hymn helped her nephew to overcome insomnia on the other side of the world purely through meditation and thought.

I too strongly believe that we can find spiritual teachers in different forms if we are ready to receive them. This is what she says regarding spiritual guidance, “There is a theory that if you yearn sincerely enough for a Guru, you will find one. The universe will shift, destiny’s molecules will get themselves organized and your path will soon intersect with the path of the master you need. It was only one month after my first night of desperate prayer on my bathroom floor — a night spent tearfully begging God for answers — that I found mine, having walked into David’s apartment and encountered a photograph of this stunning Indian woman.”

The movie is nothing compared to the book – it can actually be compared to an orange peel that needs to be removed in order to taste the fruit’s rich pulp and juices inside. Gilbert is one of the authors I really look up to!

Loved Ketut and all his advices – this one was the best: “You make serious face like this, you scare away good energy. To meditate, only you must smile. Smile with face, smile with mind, and good energy will come to you and clear away dirty energy. Even smile in your liver.”

“Smile in your liver” is one of the important quotes that I try to live by as much as I can and have imbibed it in my spiritual practice.

Also want to add another of Ketut’s philosophies which deeply touched me:

“You have been to hell, Ketut?”
He smiled. Of course he’s been there.
What’s it like in hell?”
Same like in heaven,” he said.
He saw my confusion and tried to explain. “Universe is a circle, Liss.”
He said. “To up, to down — all same, at end.”
I remembered an old Christian mystic notion: As above, so below.
I asked. “Then how can you tell the difference between heaven and hell?”
Because of how you go. Heaven, you go up, through seven happy places. Hell, you go down, through seven sad places. This is why it better for you to go up, Liss.” He laughed.
Same-same,” he said. “Same in end, so better to be happy in journey.”
I said, “So, if heaven is love, then hell is… ”
Love, too,” he said.
Ketut laughed again, “Always so difficult for young people to understand this!”

Few more spiritually enriching excerpts that I would like to add from the book are:

“This is the hymn I call ‘The Amazing Grace of Sanskrit,’ filled with devotional longing. It is the one devotional song I have memorized, not so much from effort as from love. I begin to sing the familiar words in Sanskrit, from the simple introduction about the sacred teachings of Yoga to the rising tones of worship (‘I adore the cause of the universe … I adore the one whose eyes are the sun, the moon and fire . . . you are everything to me, O god of gods . . .’) to the last gemlike summation of all faith (‘This is perfect, that is perfect, if you take the perfect from the perfect, the perfect remains’).”

“The Gurugita does have an impressive spiritual lineage; it’s an excerpt from a holy ancient scripture of Yoga called the Skanda Purana, most of which has been lost, and little of which has been translated out of Sanskrit. Like much of Yogic scripture, it’s written in the form of a conversation, an almost Socratic dialogue. The conversation is between the goddess Parvati and the almighty, all-encompassing god Shiva. Parvati and Shiva are the divine embodiment of creativity (the feminine) and consciousness (the masculine). She is the generative energy of the universe; he is its formless wisdom. Whatever Shiva imagines, Parvati brings to life. He dreams it; she materializes it. Their dance, their union (their Yoga), is both the cause of the universe and its manifestation. In the Gurugita, the goddess is asking the god for the secrets of worldly fulfilment, and he is telling her. It bugs me, this hymn.”

“Look, the Gurugita isn’t supposed to be a fun song to sing. It has a different function. It’s a text of unimaginable power. It is a mighty purifying practice. It burns away all your junk, all your negative emotions. And I think it’s probably having a positive effect on you if you’re experiencing such strong emotions and physical reactions while you’re chanting it. This stuff can be painful, but it’s awfully beneficial.”

Author:          Pratibha R DH

Magento 2 upgrade

Magento has been one of the most versatile online shopping platforms trusted by world’s leading brands as well as widely used by small businesses and start-ups. It is popular due to the fact it is open source and free to download thereby helping store owners to sell their products quickly and easily. Compared to other ecommerce solutions floating in the market, it has greater flexibility to manage the content, the design and the functionalities of the store.

The point and click nature of Magento also does away with unnecessary hassles of web servers or complicated coding. It is also scalable, meaning it grows with your business. If you want a new feature, it can be simply added from its vast list of extensions. Additionally, it has a huge community of talented and fast growing developers to provide support to the store owners. A lot of resources are available freely on various forums and blogs to guide the online shop owner on any issues.

Over and above, with the latest release of Magento 2, there have been a lot of improvements to this shopping application in terms of flexibility, scalability and performance while keeping in mind the optimum convenience of the user. Without doubt this new version will improve your business performance by leaps and bounds. But for those who have second thoughts about upgrading, in view of the financial and technical difficulties, can continue to use the old version as support from the Magento community still remains strong.

In case of any dilemma you might be having regarding the upgradation of your store, let’s have a quick look at the exciting changes you can expect with this latest release.

1. Magento 2 offers full page caching built into the community version as well as the enterprise version. What this means is that instead of the Web server having to do a tremendous amount of slow database queries to render a page, it operates on the server database to pre-render its each and every page into basic HTML. This reduces the load time from a time consuming 5-8 seconds lag to a neat 1-2 seconds, resulting in a faster page response for many eCommerce sites. Faster page load times allows for lesser load on the server due to the reduced number of disk reads and network round-trips.

This further provides for faster loading time in catalogue as well as check out pages, creating a richer customer experience. The websites can now handle much more visitors and traffic with ease without incurring huge costs on increased infrastructure. Consequently, translation to higher conversion rates occur which is a key factor on which Google rank websites, as a faster loading website is bound to earn a higher rank. This improved scalability of Magento 2 has the ability to cater to more than 2 million page views and approximately 250,000 orders per hour on a very busy day!

2. The Magento 2 comes with a wide range of extensions, which offers greater customisation as per the user’s requirements. If the software doesn’t come pre-installed with certain features that a shop owner might require, then the developer can easily take the advantage of the newly added features to extend the capabilities of his shop. Also installing and upgrading extensions in Magento 2 are now much easier. It in fact includes a standalone installer which will check for pre-requisites before it starts the installation process and thereby lead the way to a faster and smarter installation compared to the previous versions.

3. Magento 2 comes with a greater and effective database management compared to the previous versions. Magento 2 Enterprise version facilitates the separation of databases as per the functionalities of the store and handling of the traffic. Here the categories, products and content pages are designed to be served on one mySQL database whereas the checkout process uses a completely separate database. Over and above, the added feature of full time caching, facilitates for more conversions and richer sales experience for the clients. This results in the websites performing better, as dedicated resources are allocated only for the checkout facility. Hence people who are trying to buy are not slowed down by people just trying to browse. This makes a huge difference for big stores with thousands of visitors and buyers on any busy day.

4. Magento 2 comes with enhanced visual design editor with a drag & drop interface where users can easily start a theme as well as add their own features and customisations.

5. Other enhanced features of Magento 2 include:

• Enhancements in Admin Panel such as drag and drop product images, facilitating easier frontend development.
• Multi-warehouse support.
• Improved multilingual support.
• Improved and simplified checkout process.
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Plotting a novel & writing scenes (How to write a novel – Part 2)

Once you have the idea for your novel, take some time to develop it into a one or two line summary or maybe a story goal. For e.g., it might be something like: “A London based artist plans to avenge the death of her sister, who dies under mysterious circumstances.”

From here you brainstorm different ideas as it comes to you. Your idea maybe in the form of an image who may also be the main protagonist of the novel. For the purpose of our article, let’s visualise the image as that of a female who is an artist and in her early twenties. You can give her a name, say, Nina Michaels. You can describe her personality – maybe she is quiet and reserved, and you write that down. Then next you can write about how feels, meaning her emotional state at that point of time. Her emotions could be running high as she is vastly devastated by her sister’s death, and also agonised because her death has not been resolved in a correct manner by the police. Then from here you can jot down ideas about the sister who has passed away. Give her a name, say, Maya Michaels. You can mention her profession which could be that of an upcoming model in a reputed fashion house. Then you can roughly jot down ideas about the suspects here. It could be her ex-boyfriend or her colleague. You may jot down the consequences that might have taken place, for example, the police closed down her file as a suicide case. The reasons you can jot down roughly as because the victim was going through a depressive phase at being jilted by her boyfriend. And also one more reason you can mention, such as, she had been found to take prescribed drugs. So you allow the free flowing of ideas and randomly jot them down as they come to you. You can have a rough sketch of your ideas in clusters or in a Venn diagram, however it suits your creativity and sense of organisation.

Once this is done you can use these ideas to write different events or situations you visualise happening in the story. This may be as long as ten to fifteen pages or more.

You could write about how Nina is in her daily life, where does she live and how are the people around her. You can give more details about her, such as, she is a multi-media artist who works in an advertising agency. She lives a very quiet life in London city, just to highlight the contrast in her personality as regards to a busy capital city like London. Then you can write in detail about the conflict that brings about a change in her personality. You can ponder awhile to empathise how protagonist would be feeling or how she would be passing days in her life. Then we can dangle the ‘opportunity’ factor here which Nina could use to bring about a change in her life as well as resolve the conflict she is facing. At this point of time you can bring up some supporting characters that might come to help or have a connection with her conflict. You can also take some time to describe each of the supporting characters and write what relation they have with each other. Maybe there is a probability of a romance surfacing or you can add some pointers about who the antagonist might be. So once you have this content, make a rough outline of all the ideas, events and characters in a linear fashion. It should all be shaped in a logical sequence. This is what is called the backbone of the story.

Once you have a rough backbone of the story, write different scenes that work towards the resolution of the story goal. In each of the scenes, write a small summary of may be four or five lines. If you are out of ideas for a particular scene just keep it for now and move on to the next scene; you can come back to it later. After finishing a rough draft of all the scenes, you can develop each scene into a chapter of maybe of 2000 or 3000 words depending on the word count of the book.

You can also plan the number of chapters beforehand and divide these chapters into three parts –
also known as the three-act structure. The three-act structure is a popular model, used by many authors to write their plays, novels, poetry, comic books, short stories etc. In this structure what you do is plan the number of chapters for your entire novel – say thirty chapters. The first part or Act 1, also known as the beginning, consists of ten chapters. The beginning explains the setup of the novel such as introduces the protagonist, the conflict, the circumstances that come about due to the conflict, the opportunity for change, the objectives and action plan the protagonist takes to resolve the conflict. You also write about the settings here and introduce the supporting actors.

The middle portion of the three-act structure is where the confrontation takes place. It consists of the changes that take place in the protagonist’s life due to his or her decisions, other subplots of the supporting characters, enemies gained, the experiences and lessons learnt that further strengthen the story goal. Some fun incidents in the protagonist’s life can also be added here such as celebrations, reunions and romances. You can also introduce the antagonists here or they may be already introduced but here is where their shady traits are revealed. In relation to the antagonists, you can show how they weaken or strengthen the protagonist in achieving his or her goal.

The third act or last ten chapters, is where the resolution takes place. Pressure mounts as the protagonists faces obstacles after obstacles. Encounters are shown where the protagonist faces relentless defeat and despair as nothing seems to be right here. Other discouraging situations come up, and maybe some secrets are revealed too. There may also be some sacrifices involved or maybe death of one or two characters. Tension reaches its peak here till crisis reaches final climax and then resolution occurs.

As you keep moving onto the next chapter you have to make it a point to revise the previous chapter so that it is not too messy later on. Once you complete the whole draft, you go back to the beginning for another round of re-edit.

For e.g., here in my story, let’s suppose Nina finds out that her sister was jilted by her boyfriend before her death. Maya’s boyfriend was none other than London’s famous billionaire, Ricky Peters. Although an initial suspect, the police set Ricky free after not being able to find any substantial evidence against him. So here we have the conflict of Nina trying to find out more about her sister’s death. In her quest to find out more, she accidently meets Alex Peters, the brother of the
billionaire. Luckily for Nina, Alex comes as a perfect opportunity for her to resolve her conflict. Alex is a new client in her agency and Nina successfully manipulates her boss to assign her Alex’s project.

Hence this is one of the action plans she takes to resolve the conflict. She also learns that the brothers belong to a dynasty of rich tycoons and prior to Maya’s death, their whole family was vehemently against her marriage to Ricky. As the story progresses, Nina studies Alex closely and tries to find out more background information about him and his family. She changes her mode of dressing and style just to make Alex fall in love with her. In Act two, Nina will achieve her goal as Alex proposes to her. But again there is a dent to her plans as she finds herself falling in love with Alex too. There are circumstances where she meets other characters such as Alex’s family who all seem to be very nice. There will be other supporting characters here, like for example, her best friend Tasha. But again there is Ricky’s friend circle who behaves suspiciously towards her. One of them may be introduced as the antagonist. Towards the third act there is a fight between Nina and Alex as he realises her true motives for falling in love with him.

Once you have all the scenes roughly drafted, it gets easier to develop it into full fledged chapters. Before you know it, you find your fingers are flying around with sentences, dialogues and events all falling easily like a heavy downpour. In no time, your first draft is ready and from then on you keep going back to remove unnecessary paragraphs, bad sentences or add some new ones. Henceforth, you go on polishing your manuscript with as many re-edits required, till you feel completely satisfied with the final manuscript.

Now that your novel is complete, you can sit back and revel this moment for a while. Hey! You are the author of this huge manuscript which everyone calls a novel. Your novel! Time for celebrations and new hope as you gather information about various literary agents across the country or seek to pursue alternative methods of publishing.

Author:               Pratibha R DH

Ideas and inspiration (How to write a novel – Part 1)

The first thing that you need to figure out while writing your story is what kind of story you are going to write about; or to be more specific what genre will it belong to. Will the story be focused on romance or will it be a sci-fi fiction or should you opt to write a dystopian fiction?

The best way to decide this is to check your book shelf and see what kind of novels are you inclined to read more. What do you love reading the most? The genre that you usually read more is the one you are pretty familiar with. Hence the best option is to focus on the genre that you love reading as then you will have enough content and ideas for a beginner, and this will also help you tune in easily into the writing process.

For example, if you are a fantasy freak, but you decide to write a mystery novel. Then in that case, the learning curve for crafting out a mystery novel for you would be pretty steep as it will not be your familiar territory. You have start with reading more and more crime novels, get familiar with the crime terminology and invest a lot of time to getting acquainted with that particular genre. You will need to spend a lot of time in researching how detectives work, what techniques they use to solve crimes, what challenges they go through, how the author keeps the suspense element strong all through out a crime novel and so on.

But in case of a fantasy novel, which you have been reading for years, a lot of the elements would have already been embedded in your subconscious. For eg, you would be already familiar with the different kinds of world building used in fantasy novels. Some which are based on legends across the world; some from real history such as that of medieval Europe, Renaissance era or Native American folklore and some may be a world totally invented from the author’s imagination. Then you would have observed the different kind of supernatural rules that operate in the fantasy world, which an author uses consistently throughout the book, almost similar to a formula. You would have also been acquainted with different styles of magic used; the tone of the characters – meaning the language they use and so on. So finally all you have to do is sit quietly, reflect, maybe meditate and you will find random ideas dangling in your mind’s cosmos. As you quickly jot down points, you find these ideas take shape into a rough outline. Hence the best practice would be to focus on a genre you are pretty acquainted with so that you can easily imbibe the elements of that genre such as the settings, the plot, the theme, the style, the characterisation, the point of view and the tone into your novel.

I for one, write a lot about fantasy since I love reading about other worlds different from ours; I love the supernatural elements in a novel, the unknown, the suspense and the magic! I also love to read stories with young people in them, love their young vibrant energy, their unjaded optimism, their dreams and their challenges of growing up. Some of my favourites are: The Hunger Games, Princess Diaries, Harry Potter, Divergent and Twilight.

Once you have decided to focus on a particular genre, you have to find an idea for your story. Many people have different ways of picking story ideas. For some there are so many that it gets difficult to choose that one particular idea that they would like to hone into their novel. And even after doing so, they are haunted by the rest of the ideas they didn’t pick up – literally so.

For the rest of us who are not yet inspired we have to go browsing for one; browse the unlimited free shop – our universe I mean. For that maybe you may have go out for a walk in the woods or the park or a beautiful natural area with a lot of trees and scenic beauty around. Listening to music, going for movies, taking a bath, spending time with children or simply day dreaming – are some other ways to be inspired. You can also draw out your own experiences in life or some special moments in your life or maybe folk tales handed down by your grandparents and so on. So basically you have to keep your mind prepared to absorb signs from the universe or let your subconscious know that you are ready to receive ideas. So keep your mind alert and keep a dream journal as some ideas may even come to you through your dreams! Your ideas may come to you as an image in your mind’s eye. Sometimes some particular setting in a restaurant or a classroom may set off an image. At other times a scene in a movie might trigger out that winning idea.

Another way to get your ideas is through research. For eg, if you are writing about fantasy, you can research a lot about mythology of different cultures or the esoteric beings in the other world like the elementals, fairies and the devas. You can also research about different forms of folk or ceremonial magic used across cultures such as Wiccans, North American Indians, Africans, Chinese etc. If you are writing about crime novels then your research will involve reading crime novels, learning about criminal terminology, watching crime documentaries, get acquainted with police officers if possible to observe how they work, checking up websites to learn about investigation procedures, DNA analysis, forensic anthropology, pathology, forensic criminology, fingerprinting and so on.

For my middle grade series, Magical Ventures of Loli and Lenny, Loli came to me as an image of a girl on a swing going up and down. Then I saw a squirrel passing by her swing in my mind’s eye which may also be inspired by the squirrels in my backyard. I also could see a pendulum moving back and forth for no particular reason. So this was one of the introducing scenes of the books. For my novelette, Redemption, the images poured to me while taking a walk and listening to music. To sum it all up, each has his own method to pick up ideas or be inspired and hence we too should find our own magic trick too.

Author:            Pratibha R DH

How to write interesting characters for your novel?

The best approach to develop interesting characters for your novel is by observing people in your own life; meaning your family, friends, neighbours and acquaintances. Readers will be able to relate more to those characters as they will sound and feel more realistic. So for a while, keep a keen eye on the people around you. Observe their style of talking, their facial expressions, frequent mannerisms, their special qualities or weaknesses. This will help to add more depth to your character as you go on developing it – in the sense make it more believable and relatable.

Once you have a vague image of your character, go on adding more details to it in your mind’s eye and write it down as it comes to you. For the purpose of this article, let’s suppose your character is a female. Below in this article I have compiled eleven factors that you can keep in mind while developing and writing about your character:

1. Name: You need to give her a name, so that it makes you feel as if you are thinking of a real person. While choosing a name you can also use one that reflects some quality of your protagonist. For example, she maybe named Dawn because of the kind of innocence she radiates that is relatable to the freshness of dawn. Or you can name her Grace, because of a graceful, ladylike quality about her that you want the readers to feel. But then, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. It entirely depends upon your own unique style of showcasing your character.

2. Age: The readers need to know the age of the character to build a clear and defined image in their minds. Is she a teenager or someone in her late twenties? Usually, the age would be mostly dependent on the storyline and the genre. If for e.g., it is a middle grade book then the character’s age would be somewhere around nine to twelve years old, whereas for a young adult book, the character should be around fifteen to eighteen years old. The age also determines the tone used by the characters, whether it is a mature voice or a chirpy, young voice.

3. Occupation: Once you have determined her age, you can write about what she does. Is she is a student, or a career woman, or simply someone with a daytime job to support her family? The protagonist’s personality will be largely determined by this because, supposing you are talking about a high school student here, then you are portraying a typically young person. Hence her tone of voice, like most teenagers, will be often headstrong and opinionated or maybe light and carefree. Again like most teenagers, she maybe very impulsive or spontaneous in her actions. Then again your character maybe a research scholar and carry an intelligent look about her, and also is quite serious about her outlook in life. Another example we can cite is that of a waitress who has a gregarious personality as per the demands of her job. On the contrary she might have a dual personality where she is very cheerful and outgoing at her work place but reserved and quiet when she is at home or with her close circle of friends.

4. Physical descriptions: It’s time to describe her physically now and the possibilities are limitless here. She maybe very pretty, or on the contrary, be very average looking but with a charming smile or a cute nose. Or she may have captivating eyes on a handsome face, complemented by a luxurious, shiny mane of hair. There are no boundaries here and you can portray her as you would like your readers to glimpse a vision that is close to yours.

5. Character traits: Once the sex, age, occupation and physical descriptions are done, you need to write about her character traits. Describe how she really is as a person with her peers, friends or family and how she is when she is alone. How does it affect her relationships in turn? One thing you have to keep in mind while developing your protagonist is that besides her heroic qualities, she will sound more real if you also add some flaws to her character. This will help add more depth and dimension to her personality. In the real world nobody is perfect, so showing some of her weaknesses makes her sound more credible. She may be reserved, but at the same time very easy-going and helpful. Or she maybe cheerful, bubbly and talkative but at the same time also sensitive and gullible.

Strive to make her sound more like a round character instead of flat. For example, she maybe a very friendly girl as well as straightforward and helpful but her straightforward nature makes her too frank for some people’s liking. As a result, she has many enemies too. Or, she maybe very independent and individualistic but she also is very stubborn which leads to many tensions in her relationships with her friends. Then again, she may have a calm and peaceful disposition but this is the very reason that makes her a soft prey to nasty and loud people around her. Balancing the heroic qualities of your protagonists with one or a few flaws can help the readers look up to the protagonists as well as relate to a piece of their own weakness too. Similarly, when you write about the antagonists, you can highlight a good quality to their otherwise villainous nature. For e.g., supposing your antagonist is a male who is aggressive, opportunistic, self-centred and deceitful. Then you can throw in a virtue here amongst his basket of vices, such as, he is very loyal where his family is concerned and can do anything for them.

6. Settings: You can relate her moods and emotions to the settings of the novel so that it gives the readers more insight to her character. For e.g., she lives in the country but she longs for the hustle and bustle of city life. Hence that makes her grumpy and emotionally needy. Or, she may be relocated to the city but she longs to be in the countryside; hence that makes her restless as well as a loner. That would explain her emotional state in the novel and naturally help to pave the way to write about the character’s motivations.

7. Situations: The situations in her life will be another factor to show how the character handles her emotions, trauma, setbacks or happy events in her life. Maybe she lost someone close to her; hence she is devastated and withdrawn. Or, maybe she has been accepted by the college of her dreams, hence she is very excited and optimistic about her future. The situations in her life add a better perspective to the character’s traits and helps the reader to imagine the character better.

8. Past: The past of a person largely determines why the protagonist is the way he or she is. You can talk about the influences or kind of upbringing the protagonist had in shaping her character. For e.g., the character might have had a submissive mother and a controlling father. So she decided very early in her life that she would always stand up for herself, come what may. Hence she is very assertive in her dealings which may sometimes border around aggression. Or the character’s role model was her mother who was very ambitious, so she too grew up to be ruthlessly ambitious and goal-driven. Or maybe the character was always compared to her better performing siblings; hence there is a kind of insecurity in her which she tries to hide with subtle sarcasm.

9. Objective: The objective of the character show what she strives to be at the beginning of the novel. Maybe she wants to be very rich since she grew up in scarcity and deprived economic conditions. Hence the character is goal-oriented as well as extremely persevering. Or the character grew up in a very ambitious family where parents never had any time for each other. Hence the character is very laidback and wants to enjoy life. Or, maybe she simply follows her passions and creativity and doesn’t bother too much about money. Instead she strives for a sense of personal achievement and contentment.

10. Motivation: The motivation of the character strongly determines the nature of the character which in turn is a major factor in driving the plot. Maybe the protagonist is a quiet and mellowed kind of person who mostly minds her own business. But the murder of her mother changes her and so she is motivated by powerful emotions such as anger, resentment and a strong sense of vengeance. The novel then becomes a story of vengeance or crime as determined by the motivation of the main character. Or maybe the protagonist wants to win a beauty pageant but she isn’t motivated enough as she is instilled with qualities of humility and modesty by her parents. But an inciting incident like being ridiculed as a doormat by the popular girls in her school motivates her to prove herself. Hence the novel is more of a chick lit which features peer rivalries, popularity contests, romances and friendships between the characters. Or, again for instance the character may not be ambitious enough. But the tragedy of losing her father at not being able to avail funds for medical aid, propels her to be ruthlessly ambitious and money-minded. So the storyline is basically about the character’s hunger for power and money.

Motivation, therefore, is the major factor that determines a character’s development. In the course of the novel, the characters goes through various changes as they try to achieve their goals in face of their challenges. For example, a very shy woman maybe motivated to change into an extrovert or a conservatively dressed female may turn to be a bold and flashy dresser just to achieve the goals in her life.

11. Show and not tell: Lastly, keep in mind that when writing about your character, you have to show her personality through the dialogues she has with the supporting characters instead of making readers follow long descriptions. This is a far creative way to show your characters and their traits. Maybe your protagonist is rebellious and therefore, whilst an argument with her mother, you can show her rebellious side. Or she is an earthy and sensible kind of teenager and to show this side of her character you can throw in a scene of her with her girl friends. In this scenario her girlfriends maybe mostly talking about fashion, parties and boys while she appears bored and her mind wanders elsewhere.

So keeping these points in mind, you go on developing your characters and make them grow as the situations keep changing in your novel. As the characters evolve, the readers too will feel they are reading about people in the real world. The protagonists’ journey also becomes the reader’s journey as they go through the same emotional highs and lows, and reader ends up wanting to know more.

Author:         Pratibha R DH